Socialize weed retailers now

Pallister’s cannabis retail policy stifles economic democracy and freedom

Rejoice! Weed is legal, but the Manitoba government is selling kush all wrong.

When you want to light up a green-packed stogie, you will have to haul yourself into a privately owned and operated retail vender. The cash you hand over for your green nug to these private corporations represents a massive failure in policy by the governing Progressive Conservatives.

Currently the provincial government is the only wholesale distributor of cannabis. The wholesale government weed has a $0.75 mark-up on every gram and a nine per cent mark-up compounded on top of the total price. When you go and buy the weed from the retailer you will not be charged PST. But, retailers must pay six per cent of their total revenue on recreational cannabis sales. This social responsibility fee will come into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

The money generated from these fees private retailers pay will go toward important social programs and help improve the lives of Manitobans. Publicly-owned retailers, however, would generate more revenue for the public purse and provide better-paying jobs.

Publicly-owned enterprises forward the lion’s share of their profits to the public. Whereas the profits generated in a private firm are solely controlled by those who own the firm. Publicly-owned firms let the people have the power to determine what happens with the money. This democratizes what would otherwise be the decision of a private owner.

Always go for more democracy and freedom.

To varying degrees, all provinces have agreed with this sentiment. While some provinces will use a private retail or hybrid system, every province except Brian Pallister’s Manitoba will have publicly-owned online retail stores. These virtual stores will deliver your goodies right to your door while democratizing the profits.

By selling the ganja at publicly-owned retail locations the provincial government could make plenty of well-paying jobs. For example, full-time workers at publicly-owned liquor stores who run the cash register start out making $21.85. They also get paid sick days and a decent vacation. Workers who become pregnant can rest easy knowing their employer will top up their wage to 93 per cent of her weekly wage while on maternity leave.

Even part-time workers make a decent wage. A “casual” worker will earn a starting wage of $16.72.

These workers will have more money in their pockets than their private-sector counterparts. Since these workers will have some money left over after they pay for their rent, food and clothes, they will buy goods that will help spur economic activity across the province.

Moreover, these workers have a union where they are afforded protections for their jobs and a collective voice to help determine the circumstances of their work life. This is no small fact. Having even the slightest modicum of say over our working lives is another step toward democracy and freedom.

These workers are employed by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. Even though it pays its workers a decent living wage, it still manages to hand over huge sums of cash the provincial government. The 2017-2018 annual report lists the total revenue generated by publicly-owned liquor stores at $427 million. Meanwhile, the net-profit of the crown corporation and total amount deposited in the public’s treasury from both liquor and gaming is listed at $610 million.

That represents 4.5 per cent of the revenue of the province’s 2017-2018 budget. And cannabis has the potential to grow that even more.

According to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, by 2020, national weed sales could reach $6.5 billion. That is more than the $5.1 billion spent on spirits annually, but less than the $7 billion spent on wine .

The money being siphoned by privately-owned retailers could be used to fully cover our university tuition, fund green energy projects, increase public transportation, improve healthcare or address the opioid crisis. The limiting factor is only what is imaginable.

It is unlikely the Progressive Conservatives will change course and do what is right by socializing weed retailers. But, any political movement or party that wants to defeat Pallister needs to embed socializing weed retailers in their platform. It serves as a conduit for the social good and a better future.

The demand is simple. Peace, land and socialized weed retailers!